Gotta catch’em young: A KSFA drive to create a talent hub
18 Oct 2023

AIFF Media Team

NEW DELHI: In the 2023-24 season, the Karnataka State Football Association’s Youth Premier League marked a significant milestone by introducing the Under-7 age category for the first time, complementing the previously established Under-9 category. This move was in line with AIFF’s broader vision for grassroots development, crucial in the lead-up to the 2026 and 2047 milestones.

All matches take place on Sundays at the CooluluTurf Park in Koramangala, Bengaluru, on a 5-a-side ground. The venue quickly transformed into a vibrant hub, bustling with enthusiastic parents, family, and friends who gathered to wholeheartedly support the young athletes. This palpable energy and community spirit became emblematic of the league’s success. Remarkably, the league’s eight weeks of matches so far were completed seamlessly, underscoring the efficient organisation and dedication of everyone involved.

A distinctive feature of this season was the league’s emphasis on skill development over competition. All matches, regardless of age category, were played in a non-competitive format. No scores were recorded, and there was no points table. The primary objective is to allow young players to focus solely on honing their skills, without the pressure of winning or losing.

In the U-7 category, 14 teams participated, engaging in 13 matches each. Matches are played in a 4v4 format, with two halves of 12 minutes each. The rules exclude goalkeepers and prohibit the use of hands. The smaller goal posts, measuring 2’3” x 2’9”, and unique regulations such as kick-ins instead of throw-ins and rolling substitutions, have created an environment conducive to skill enhancement.

For the U-9 category, a whopping 37 teams were divided into two groups of 19 and 18 teams. Each team got to play 17 or 18 matches in a 5v5 format, with games lasting for two halves of 20 minutes each. Unlike the U-7 category, U-9 matches allow goalkeepers, who have specific rules for ball distribution and goal kicks. Similar to the U-7 matches, there are no offside calls, and rolling substitutions are permitted.

Moreover, KSFA contributed to the league’s smooth operation by involving young football enthusiasts through internship opportunities. These interns will take on vital roles as tournament secretaries, ensuring the league runs efficiently across all age categories.

In summary, the KSFA Youth Premier League 23-24 season not only expanded its age categories but also fostered a nurturing environment for young players. By prioritising skill development and creating a supportive community, the league not only enriched the lives of aspiring footballers but also nourished the growth of grassroots football in the region.

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